Firms giving staff time off to do good

Singapore Pools staff members Jesslin Ong (left), 23, and Charmaine Chng, 40, playing at West Coast Park earlier this week with children from Sunbeam Place, a shelter for youngsters, as part of their company’s corporate social responsibility progra
Singapore Pools staff members Jesslin Ong (left), 23, and Charmaine Chng, 40, playing at West Coast Park earlier this week with children from Sunbeam Place, a shelter for youngsters, as part of their company’s corporate social responsibility programme. ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

Special leave lets workers volunteer either here or abroad

BUSINESS planning and development manager Lee Chen Chuen takes up to three days of leave annually for volunteering activities such as building homes for needy families in Batam.

The time-off does not come from his annual leave but from the volunteer service leave granted by his employer, Standard Chartered Bank.

“Regardless of how busy we are at work, having three days of volunteering leave allows me to take some official time off to make a small but significant contribution to the community,” said Mr Lee, 32.

The desire to help staff do good has spurred more companies to approve special leave to let employees take part in the firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes or other volunteering efforts. These companies tend to be large ones, from investment firms to banks to multinational companies. Most give two to three days of volunteer service leave.

Ms Aim Leong, a manager at Singapore Pools, said the company hopes to promote attributes such as leadership, humility, kindness and compassion in its staff through active volunteerism. They are entitled to two days off a year.

HELPING THE COMMUNITY
“Regardless of how busy we are at work, having three days of volunteering leave allows me to take some official time off to make a small but significant contribution to the community.”
STANDARD CHARTERED BUSINESS PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT MANAGER LEE CHEN CHUEN

Standard Chartered Bank increased the leave from two days in 2006 to three in 2010 to give employees more time to explore new volunteering activities, while encouraging others to do so more frequently.

At Singapore’s investment company Temasek Holdings, staff are given five days, a practice they have had since 2008.

Most of the CSR and volunteering work is done locally. It can be as simple as packing and distributing food to needy families, taking the elderly out on an excursion or spending a day with special needs children. Activities are usually organised by the companies.

At Microsoft Singapore, staff are allowed to use this leave for activities they like. “For example, a group of dog lovers can volunteer their time at an animal shelter organisation,” said its human resource director Julianne Truda. Its employees get three days of leave.

At DBS Bank, staff do not have to submit evidence of their volunteer work to apply for the leave, said its spokesman.

Companies said they trust employees not to abuse the privilege by using the leave for other purposes.

Some workers use the time off to volunteer overseas. Last year, three Temasek Holdings staff went to Mozambique to help underprivileged children, including distributing supplies and playing games with them.
Over at CapitaLand, which offers three days of volunteer service leave, staff have helped build school facilities in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

Human resource experts said encouraging staff to help others is a good idea.

Ms Gwen Lim, a senior consultant at recruitment consultancy firm Robert Walters Singapore, said “with time given to perform CSR, employees are likely to feel more engaged and have something to look forward to beyond their day-to-day job”.

Mr Thomas Thomas, the executive director of Singapore Compact, a non-governmental organisation that promotes CSR, urges more companies to provide this leave.

“By encouraging employee volunteering, it is also a way for businesses and employees to empathise, understand and act to resolve some of the problems faced by the disadvantaged in our society,” he said.

taysc@sph.com.sg